Vaccines May Save Africa’s Rarest Wolves From Extinction
The endangered Ethiopian wolf suffers from high levels of rabies—but a new vaccine trial may help save the species.
During his 1991 field season, Claudio Sillero-Zubiri trekked through the rugged highlands of Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains for his PhD research, searching for the world’s rarest canid: the Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis).
Fewer than 1,000 wolves remained, making conservation work on the species imperative. But even Sillero-Zubiri began having trouble finding them alive. Instead, he came across arid landscapes littered with their corpses.
After analyzing blood samples back at the University of Oxford, where he was studying, he soon identified the culprit: rabies.
In the years since, Sillero-Zubiri, now a professor at Oxford, and his team at the Ethiopian Wolf Project have identified four major rabies outbreaks among Ethiopian wolves in the Bale Mountains. Each time the virus hit—in 1991, 2003, 2008,